By: Jacob Mack
Over the years a lot of people have asked me why I believe in God at all, and which God to I believe in. When I reply I believe in Jesus for many this conjures up images of the hypocrisy often found on all human endeavors, including the common judgmental group-think found within various religions. Also with so many religions that seem to be marketing a brand of religion and selling some sort of guarantee based upon one’s actions and beliefs, it can become quite the cumbersome task explaining or even for me to understanding what it is I believe precisely or why. I too have my days (or weeks) of doubts, fears and philosophical/theological reconsiderations. What does it mean for me to believe in God at all, why is it God and not god gods or Gods? What is it about the narrative of Jesus and my personal experiences in this self perceived relationship that marks a difference for me than any other spiritual/religious system?
I thought for this first blog entry of mine I would start with the common reasons I had in the past and to what I have often heard as legitimate reasons for belief, and then briefly deconstruct them. While each of these reasons may have a place or in the aggregate contribute to one’s faith, these in and of themselves even in totality are not the reasons for my faith foundationally.
Reason # 1
Fear of death/eternal damnation.
This is a very common and understandable fear. I was raised in a strict fundamentalist home where hell was one breath away and there was a demon behind every door. No one is exempt at the very least from a fear of death, whether healthy or unhealthy. When I was a young child and an adolescent that fear of Hell was a powerful motivator for me extrinsically to “be good” and be a “faithful Christian”. However, through trial and error, prayer, meditation, and plenty of mess ups (sin) I found in my experience God to be faithful, loving and full of grace even at times when I lacked any faith whatsoever and I was on a “bad road”. Philosophically, fear is not a good underlying construct to based faith in a “loving God” in and it I rather absurd of you stop to think about it.Theologically, Jesus came to save the world from its alienation and not to condemn it, but to condemn the sin we could not free ourselves of; it is grace that was bestowed upon us, both being here at all and for God to walk among us.
Reason # 2
Basically this antiquated philosophy says hey just believe in God, since if God does exist you may profit and if God does not, nothing lost, nothing gained. The problem here is the need for faith is removed and the idea of a personal relationship with God is nothing more than a gamble. Now, I am not saying that there is no risk in faith, for there surely is, and none of us get an 100% guarantee that our faith is correct. However, faith extends beyond the convenient or the “cover all bases” approach to God. If I say I love Jesus and Jesus loves me, then I making a faith statement and not merely a statement of gray that eh maybe it is true.
Reason # 3
While sociological mores and folkways play a major role in interpersonal development and social norms/rules/laws with resulting religiosity/irrreligiosity, in the information age and with the exposure to so many different religious/spiritual beliefs/lack thereof, we have choices. I do not doubt that in parts of the world where certain religions or commitment to the state with no real religion are strictly enforced choices become more difficult, and yet everyday in the news we hear and see people rise up with their own freely thinking minds, and moved by God in ways the human mind does not comprehend.
I will stop here, and whole this first blog entry does not live up to the title of why I believe in Jesus, or even God at all, I think it begins us on a journey to think about this further and start a more nuanced dialog as well.